Summer smoke is in the air

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It has become an almost annual event. View of the mountains is eliminated by smoke, air quality is poor, and tourists are diverted to alternate recreational areas.

So far we have been lucky on the North Fork. Only a few small fires, quickly extinguished by alert Forest Service firefighters. The smoke and haze arriving here is from the south where fires are burning in the Swan and Bitterroot. Most alarming are the number of human-caused fires, although most of the big fires have been ignited by lightning.

Reason for this is obvious. Most human-caused fires are close to roads or in camping areas and can easily be reached by vehicles, while lightning is more likely to strike hills in remote areas difficult to reach and contain.

Both require resources and cost money. As resources are used or worn out, the possibility of larger fires increases, with fewer resources available to contain them. I cannot understand the stupidity of some people. Flicking lit cigarettes out a window is not only stupid, it is criminal. Same thing with unattended campfires. Safest thing is to drown a fire with water, stir the ashes, and then drown it again. Only one live ember can be fanned by a breeze, reignite and spread in minutes to a major event.

Remember the Robert Fire in 2003? It burned over 40,000 acres from the North Fork, into Glacier Park to the shore of Lake McDonald and really threatened West Glacier. Please be careful in the woods. Campfires are banned. Cigar and cigarette smokers should only smoke inside a building or vehicle. If pulling a trailer, make sure safety chains cannot touch the ground, make sparks and ignite a blaze. Fire season will likely last until mid-September or even into October.

Meanwhile, you can have fun and be safe too. Floaters are a steady stream on the North Fork and we had a huge GATR (Gather at the River) party at Meekers’ riverside cabin this week. Grills were set up on lush green grass with hoses nearby, and the food was plentiful and good. In addition to an elk steak, I really enjoyed Naomi Hoiland’s potato salad and Patti Hart’s coconut cream pie. Didn’t have room to test anything else.

Also, we all enjoyed the company and reveling in our diversity. We all have strong feelings and opinions, but have mostly learned to disagree without being disagreeable.

As summer wanes, local groups hold their annual meetings and elections. The Preservation Association has already met and probably re-elected most, if not all, of their officers. The Landowners’ Association met Saturday. I’ll bring you all up to date in next week’s column.

Open house at Ogle-Wilson’s photo studio on Aug. 20th from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and a history tour of Kintla Ranch on Aug. 30th. See you there.

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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